Saturday, January 29, 2011

One More Week...

The past two weeks at ODS have come and gone quickly.  And while much has changed much has stayed the same as well.

Our daily routine is all too familiar to us at this point--PT, classroom instruction, chow, uniform and room inspections, etc.  One day runs into the next, yet we continue to check off important milestones in our progress.  During the past two weeks, we've had yet another PT test.  I was pleased to have shown some improvement--100 sit ups (2 minutes), 63 push ups (2 minutes), and the 1.5 mile run in 12:38.  Our one and only academic test occurred as well, covering the class matierial we've been taught thus far.  I'm grateful for a 90%.  We've also had our last two room inspections and our dress blue uniform inspection which I was able to pass without much problem.

If anything has changed during the past two weeks, it has been the tone of our instructors.  As we approach our graduation, they have begun the transition of beginning to treat us as soon-to-be Naval officers rather than raw recruits.  The company has received more freedom and latitude and have been given more responsibility as well.  It has been a welcome change of pace. 

The last week has been difficult for me physically.  The training environment has been difficult on our health in general (lack of sleep, cold weather, close contact with others, etc.).  Several of us have succumbed to what we have affectionately dubbed the "Echo Virus," which comes with a very high fever, muscle pain, sore joints, and occasional vomitting.  I was SIQ (sick in quarters) for three days.  After getting back on my feet, I was down again with bronchitis which I'm battling currently.  I look forward to being healthy soon, especially as I look to make the transition to Ft. Jackson next week.

The next few days should go by quickly.  On Sunday morning/afternoon and on Monday morning I have been assigned to "colors," which means I get to help raise and lower the ensign (U.S. flag) at those times.  I certainly look forward to this experience.  I have always been moved by the playing of our national anthem and the sight of our flag, but the opportunity and privilege to salute in uniform is an amazing honor.

If our class schedule remains unchanged, we will have the opportunity to return to the pool for some combat/rescue swim training.  We should also have the opportunity to meet with Chaplain Crouterfield from Ft. Jackson.  The final hurdle will be our third PT test.  Much of the rest of our time will be spent in practicing for our graduation ceremony.  We have a lot of work to do to look sharp for Friday.  I can't wait.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Officer Develop School--Newport, RI

I reported to Officer Training Command Newport for Officer Development School (ODS) on Saturday, January 1, 2011.  It was almost one year ago that I began thinking and praying about becoming a military chaplain.  I am grateful to God for allowing this dream (and I trust it to be His dream as well!) to become a reality.

The first day or two were fairly relaxed allowing us the opportunity to get to know the rest of ODS 11030 (Echo Company).  There are 65 students in our current class, consisting of chaplains, nurses, dentists, physcial therapists, and nuclear instructors.  I am one of 19 chaplains in our class (17 Protestant, 1 Catholic, and 1 LDS).  I have been encouraged by their friendship and encouragement.  Many of us will be together at chaplain school at Ft. Jackson, SC, after our graduation from ODS at the beginning of February.

The first week of ODS was certainly challenging.  The physical demands of 18-20 hour days was certainly difficult to get used to.  I don't think I've ever been quite so tired in my life!  And as the days went on, the mental challenges began to present themselves as I was forced to acclimate more and more to a military culture.  My time, my preferences, and my thoughts are now no longer my own.  I guess I knew this would be the case, but the adjustment has been more challenging than I anticipated.  As an adult, I'm not used to being told what to eat (no sweets), how long to eat (15 minutes per meal), where to go, how to dress, etc.  When walking down the sidewalk, I can't get lost in my thoughts.  I have to be always on the alert.  If a senior officer walks or drives by, I have to be ready to salute him or her or face the consequences.  As our instructors have reminded us, the military PROTECTS democracy, it doesn't PRACTICE it!  It is my hope and desire to embrace all that I am learning here.  If I hope to minister to those serving in the military, I know I must identify with them in every way and embrace the same sacrifices that they themselves have made.  This is the heart of incarnational ministry.

I am grateful to have passed my first physical fitness test, involving sit ups, push ups, and a timed 1 1/2 mile run.  The PT test was particularly challenging in that we had our swim test and our blood drawn that morning.  I was able to do 78 sit ups (2 minutes), 57 push ups (2 minutes), and finish the run in 13:38, for an overall score of GOOD/MEDIUM".  I do hope to improve these scores in the weeks to come, especially my run time.  I was also able to pass my swim test as well as my first uniform and room inspection.  I praise God for the good health I have experienced thus far, including my foot which I injured prior to my arrival here.

A typical day at ODS begins with group PT, breakfast, classroom instruction, lunch, more classroom instruction, dinner, and then more instruction as required by our instructors.  Now that we are concluding our second week, we having more "free" time before taps (lights out), giving us more time for laundry, to complete classroom assignments, etc.  Classroom instruction has been both useful and interesting, including briefs on military pay and benefits, Navy customs and courtesies, Navy history and warfare, etc.  The information is both important and interesting.  I just wish I could stay awake in class long enough to pay attention! :)

This weekend we have three days of liberty (for MLK Day).  We are limited to the base only, but that's better than nothing.  As long as everyone behaves themselves this weekend, we can expect to have off base liberty next weekend (within 300 miles of the base).  Because I don't have a car here with me, I'm not sure whether I'll be able to actually get off base or not, but at least the option would be nice.

Currently, I'm sitting in the Liberty Center on base looking across the bay at the now decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. Maybe one day I'll have the opportunity to serve the Lord aboard a modern carrier.  What an amazing experience and privilege that would be!  Only time will tell.  Right now, graduating from ODS must be my first priority.  Only three weeks to go...